October 15th, 2008
09:42 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama distances himself from former radical Bill Ayers

HEMPSTEAD, New York (CNN) - Barack Obama distanced himself Wednesday from William Ayers, an education professor with a radical past to whom the Republicans have been aggressively linking him in recent weeks.

Watch: Obama on Ayers, ACORN

Obama said Ayers had committed "despicable acts" 40 years ago as a member of the Weather Underground, which took credit for a series of domestic bombings - but pointed out that he himself had been eight years old at the time.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists" on the campaign trail.

October 14th, 2008
04:40 PM ET
6 years ago

Biden disappointed McCain will raise Ayers in debate

Sen. Biden said Tuesday that he is disappointed with some of the tactics planned by his longtime friend Sen. John McCain.
Sen. Biden said Tuesday that he is disappointed with some of the tactics planned by his longtime friend Sen. John McCain.

LISBON, Ohio (CNN) – Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday afternoon he is disappointed John McCain is planning to bring up Barack Obama's acquaintance with 1960s radical Bill Ayers at Wednesday night’s debate, but said all Obama has to do to win is repeat his last two performances.

“I think what the debate has shown, the last two debates, is a guy who's confident and steady, and a guy who's not quite sure of where he wants to take the country,” said Biden, waiting for a cheeseburger and shake at Lisbon’s Steel Trolley Diner. “I think all Barack's got to do is repeat the performance he's had the last two times out. I feel good about it, I have total confidence in him.”

Asked how he feels about news that McCain said Ayers will come up, Biden seemed to hope his old friend the Arizona senator would change his mind.

“I'm disappointed, but we'll see. Let's see what, what he does.”

In every campaign speech, Biden makes sure to tell supporters that he and McCain have been friends for decades, and just disagree on policy. He likes to tell a story from the 2000 campaign when McCain and his family were being personally attacked by supporters of then-Texas Gov. George Bush, Biden called McCain and offered to hit the trail to vouch for his character.

So why doesn’t he call McCain now about the character attacks the Arizona senator is launching against Obama?

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October 14th, 2008
12:15 PM ET
6 years ago

Ayers will come up at debate, McCain says

 McCain plans to criticize Obama's ties to Ayers at Wednesday night's debate.
McCain plans to criticize Obama's ties to Ayers at Wednesday night's debate.

(CNN) – John McCain and Sarah Palin appear to have dropped the subject of Barack Obama's connection to 1960's radical Bill Ayers from the campaign trail, but the Arizona senator said in an interview that aired Tuesday he'll likely bring it up at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night.

The comments, during an interview with St. Louis radio station KMOX, come after Obama and Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden were sharply critical of McCain for targeting the Illinois senator over Ayers at campaign rallies, but not when the two last met for a presidential debate.

"I was astonished to hear him say that he was surprised I 'didn’t have the guts' to do that, because the fact is the question didn't come up in that fashion," McCain said of the last debate. "I think he's probably ensured it will come up this time."

McCain and Palin stepped up their criticism of Obama's past relationship with Ayers last week, as the GOP ticket's poll numbers continued to slide in the homestretch to Election Day. The campaign also released a string of ads that questioned Obama's truthfulness on the matter, in an effort to raise doubts about the Illinois senator's political origins and character. But the subject of Ayers was noticeably absent from both McCain and Palin's stump speeches Sunday and Monday, leading many political observers to conclude the campaign had deemed that line of attack ineffective.

Watch: Palin Renews Obama Attack

In the radio interview, McCain made clear he still thinks it's an issue.

"It’s not that I give a damn about some old washed up terrorist and his terrorist wife, who in 2001 said they wish they'd bombed more - what I care about, and what the American people care about, is whether he's being truthful," McCain told the St. Louis radio station.

October 9th, 2008
08:00 PM ET
6 years ago

New RNC ad mentions William Ayers

The RNC will begin airing a new ad Friday that mentions William Ayers.
The RNC will begin airing a new ad Friday that mentions William Ayers.

(CNN) – Republican efforts to link Sen. Barack Obama to William Ayers, a member of a 1970’s anti-war terrorist group, will increase Friday when a new ad from the Republican National Committee hits the airwaves.

Related: Ayers, Obama crossed paths on boards, records show

“Chicago Way,” attempts to cast Obama as a stereotypical “shady” Chicago politician. Shot in black-and-white, the ad asserts “Obama’s first campaign was launched at a gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.”

The ad also mentions convicted Chicago businessman Tony Rezko, a onetime prominent supporter of Obama’s, and William Daley, a national co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign who is also the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and the son of legendary Chicago political boss Richard J. Daley.

Related: Daley slams new McCain ad

“There’s more you need to know,” an announcer says as the ad ends.

The ad comes as the McCain campaign continues to carry out a more aggressive strategy of raising questions about Obama’s judgment and personal associations in the last month of the general election campaign. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin recently said that Obama sees America as “so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” in an apparent reference to Ayers.

Related: Get the facts about Palin's charge

The Obama campaign has hit back hard accusing the McCain of trying to distract voters’ attention away from the many challenges the country is facing.

The RNC says "Chicago Way" will air in major media markets in Indiana and Wisconsin.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Political ads • RNC • William Ayers
October 6th, 2008
02:00 PM ET
6 years ago

McCain camp dismisses claim Obama didn’t know Ayers’ past

McCain camp dismisses claim that Obama didn't know Ayers' past.
McCain camp dismisses claim that Obama didn't know Ayers' past.

(CNN) – John McCain’s campaign is dismissing statements by senior aides to Barack Obama that the Illinois senator had been unaware of former Weather Underground member William Ayers’ past when the two men met more than a decade ago.

“Does Barack Obama truly expect the American people to believe that he had no idea about his friend’s past as the infamous founder of the domestic terror group ‘The Weather Underground’ or is he just lying?” McCain-Palin spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement. “If Obama really was unaware of Ayers' radical past, learning the truth doesn't seem to have had any effect on their friendship, since the senator later endorsed a book by Ayers, and served on the same charitable board and exchanged e-mails and calls for several more years.”

Obama senior strategist David Axelrod had made that claim in an interview with CNN's Jim Acosta that aired Monday. “I mean… when he went, he certainly, he didn’t know the history,” said Axelrod – the first time a top campaign aide had said Obama did not know about Ayers’ past when they met.

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